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Aired December 13, 2001 - 20:00   ET



Osama bin Laden in his own chilling words. The U.S. government releases the tape some call the smoking gun.

Bin Laden's terrorist training camp. CNN's Christiane Amanpour tours the ruins and makes some alarming discoveries.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, HOST: And this handwritten notebook in Arabic contains instructions, intentions, listed in English. How to make arsine gas and mustard gas.


ANNOUNCER: This was a crime under the Taliban, and this man paid a heavy price for daring to make music. In a matter of minutes, a punishment squad beat the wedding guests, smashed all their instruments, and hauled the musicians away.

And that was just the beginning. CNN's Jim Clancy reports.

Live from Afghanistan: Christiane Amanpour.

AMANPOUR: Good morning from Kandahar.

U.S. officials are now telling CNN that they believe that Osama bin Laden remains holed up in the Tora Bora mountain and cave complex in eastern Afghanistan. There he has been undergoing a pounding by U.S. air strikes over the last couple of weeks, and an assault on the ground by Eastern Alliance anti-Taliban fighters who are trying to help the United States root out the remnants of the al Qaeda network and indeed, Osama bin Laden.

And now, this tape released by the United States in which Osama bin Laden appears to claim responsibility for the attacks of September 11 appears to say that this was a great thing for Islam and that it has brought more supporters.

But what we have seen over the three months since September 11, is that there has been no mass uprising in the Arab world, even though Osama bin Laden called for it. There has been no flood of fighters coming here to Afghanistan to fight for the Taliban. And already, some reaction is coming in. As expected, some are skeptical. Some will always believe that this was a fabrication by the United States as some people on the streets are saying right now.

But senior leaders in Pakistan, in the Palestinian territories and around the Arab world are saying that this is conclusive proof. Osama bin Laden, was he a pious man working for Islam, working for martyrdom, or was he just a cold-blooded killer? His words are evidence.


OSAMA BIN LADEN: (INAUDIBLE) we calculated in advance the number of casualties from the enemy who would be killed based on the position of the towers. We calculated that the floors that would be hit would be three or four floors. I was the most optimistic of them all. (INAUDIBLE) due to my experience in this field. I was thinking that the fire from the gas in the plane would melt the structure of the building and collapse the areas where the plane hit and the floors above it only. This is all that we had hoped for.

SHAYKH: Allah be praised.


AMANPOUR: Already, the spokesman for the Pakistani President has said that these words, this evidence on that videotape proves that Pakistan made the right decision in standing with the United States and against this terrorism and against the Taliban.

From the Palestinian territories, they too are saying that this now proves that Osama bin Laden was solely responsible for September 11. Clearly, the United States is eagerly waiting to see whether this tape does what it hopes, finally convince those doubters, those skeptics in the Islamic world that this was the evidence that they are waiting for.

Kelly Wallace, what is the administration saying about the reaction they've received so far?

KELLY WALLACE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well Christiane, U.S. officials are certainly heartened, number one, that this tape is being seen throughout the Middle Eastern and Central Asian world. They are very happy that it is being seen.

Secretary of State Colin Powell for his part said he can't imagine that this tape would not put to rest any doubts that still exist in the Arab and Muslim world.

Now U.S. officials are saying publicly that this tape is really something that speaks for itself, and that people will draw their own conclusions. But privately, Christiane, U.S. officials hoping these images of Osama bin Laden laughing and smiling when he talks about the destruction at the World Trade Center, they're hoping that that further strengthens the determination in the United States to support what could be a very long war against terrorism. And again, they're also hoping that it has some impact in the Arab and Muslim world. Again as you noted, there is some reaction coming in from some leaders, some moderate Arab leaders. But the sense on the streets, just looking at some reaction coming in, it appears some questions appear to be erased when it comes to bin Laden's culpability.

But still as you noted, many, many skeptics. Many people on the street saying they believe this tape is fabrication, that it's been doctored, that the U.S. is trying to twist bin Laden's words to prove its own case -- Christiane.

AMANPOUR: Kelly, U.S. allies in the Middle East from Saudi Arabia to Egypt to Jordan and elsewhere have quietly given their support for this air campaign. Some of them have vocally said it. But is the administration now hoping that the President of Egypt, that the leaders of Saudi Arabia and elsewhere now put their money where their mouth is and come out and say that this was the right thing to do, to go after this terrorist network in Afghanistan?

WALLACE: They are certainly hoping that those leaders will be more vocal. It's been interesting. We've been asking throughout the day if the administration is actually calling on these leaders to point out this tape and speak about it and talk about it, and condemn Osama bin Laden. It is not clear if the United States is doing that.

But again, they're certainly hoping that this tape speaks for itself, that it shows what U.S. officials say they've been saying all along, that bin Laden played a role, was responsible, directly behind the attacks. So they are definitely hoping to see much more coming from the leaders. They thing that would have a very big impact on the streets when it comes to the Arab and Muslim worlds -- Christiane.

AMANPOUR: For three months since September 11, we've heard so much here in the Islamic world about people who are saying that if Osama bin Laden was guilty, then he should be punished, but we need to see the evidence.

The United States has not put a public showing of the evidence out. Why did it agonize so much about releasing this tape, when it was so clearly, at face value anyway, claiming culpability?

WALLACE: What's interesting, Christiane, we learned today President Bush first viewed the tape back on November 30, and aides are saying that the President was always inclined to release it as long as two points were raised really.

One, that the tape's authenticity was determined, that it was determined to be authentic. And number two, also to make sure that releasing the tape wouldn't compromise any future intelligence gathering capabilities.

Christiane, this is a story where apparently the tape's existence was leaked to the Washington Post, and that pushed the administration's timetable, that it wasn't quite expecting to get this tape out as soon as it did on this day. So the administration saying it all along was planning to put this tape out to the American people, the world community, but its timetable was certainly expedited a bit.

And it is interesting, Christiane, because the administration is still reluctant to put out other evidence. It says it doesn't want to compromise any intelligence or its investigation when it comes to the al Qaeda network. So it's not releasing much more than this, but it is making the tape available to any countries or news organizations that might want it -- Christiane.

AMANPOUR: Kelly, thank you very much, and it will be fascinating one day to know how this tape came into existence and how U.S. officials got it.

Certainly U.S. intelligence officials and other Special Forces have been combing many of the areas in Kabul and Jalalabad and other areas that fell from the Taliban and they found many evidences of documents and other terrorist intentions.

We went to the Liva camp, the terrorist training camp ascribed to Osama bin Laden here in Kandahar, just near the Kandahar Airport and we found more evidence of Osama bin Laden's intentions.


AMANPOUR (voice over): The aging Soviet artillery pieces defending Osama bin Laden's Liva Training Camp near Kandahar Airport were no match for massive U.S. air strikes.

No sign of bin Laden's militants, dead or alive here. But behind this broken mud wall, plenty of evidence of their military training. This assault course with monkey frame and hurdles, a mock tunnel, and high bars all covered in war paint, a barbed wire entanglement to crawl under.

What we realized after looking around was that this appears to be the place where all those bin Laden training videos were shot, those videos that have now been broadcast so many times on worldwide television.

In the rubble of this sprawling camp, more evidence of the relatively unsophisticated training routines for the people accused of the worst terrorist act in history. And this handwritten notebook in Arabic contains instructions, similar to the countless manuals found in al Qaeda houses in Kabul and other Afghan towns.

Intentions listed in English. How to make arsine gas and mustard gas. On this page, it says "homebrew gas nerve" or nerve gas. On another, a picture of an octagonal building. Over the page, instructions on how to manually measure the distance to a tank.

U.S. and British Special Forces have already combed this place for clues. The Afghan fighters who've taken over Kandahar are busy looting what's left.

The commander says this is where Osama bin Laden himself lived. Nearby, an underground bunker is full of clothes and evidence of a hasty departure. All that remains alive here is one of bin Laden's horses. Perhaps he too was once a prop in the most famous terrorist training video ever shown.


(on camera): Now as we said, U.S. officials are telling CNN that they have reason to believe that Osama bin Laden is still in the Tora Bora complex area. CNN's Brent Sadler reports from there, where it has been getting a constant pounding from the air and from the ground.


BRENT SADLER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A surrender or die ultimatum to al Qaeda is answered. The terror network opting a fight to the bitter end. It's mountain hideouts under fire from the ground and ceaseless strikes from the air.

A close-up of a U.S. heavy bomber releasing its payload. Attacks are by day and by night. Giant 15,000 pound bombs, so-called daisy cutters, have been dropped in the effort to destroy al Qaeda.

Video of recent U.S. air strikes on Tora Bora has been released by the Pentagon, showing if you look closely, terror suspects running away before being blown up.

Earlier this week, Afghan fighters, America's allies, were able to follow through on the aerial bombardments, pushing back al Qaeda, overrunning this abandoned terror training camp, and a network of bomb blasted fortifications, including trenches, tunnels, and caves.

Stepped up military actions appear to coincide with deployments of Special Forces. Non-Afghans with guns, pack animals and guides spotted a week ago heading towards the action.

A day of deteriorating weather here may actually assist Special Force operations and stealth missions reportedly aimed at closing in on top al Qaeda leadership targets, and intelligence gathering to support air and ground attacks.

And possibly to help locate Osama bin Laden himself, still widely presumed to be here. "Why else", asked observers, "would Afghan leaders offer a deal in which hundreds of al Qaeda fighters could be set free on condition bin Laden and his top aides give in?" A deal which a resurgence of fighting has swept away, confirmed to me by top Afghan military commander, Hazrat Ali, as he directs tank fire by radio in the unlikely setting of a plowed field.

"As long as Osama and the al Qaeda do not leave these mountains" he says "or are destroyed, we'll continue to wage this battle," with groups of fighters, lightly armed and haphazardly fed, provisions and ammunition, competing for space in one of the scores of battle wagons heading to the front.

Brent Sadler, CNN, near Tora Bora in eastern Afghanistan.


AMANPOUR: And when we come back after a break, a hero's welcome for anti-Taliban fighters after one of the most bitter battles of this war.


AMANPOUR: Last month it seemed that all the towns and villages held by the Taliban fell like dominoes from Mazar-e Sharif in the north to Kandahar here in the south. There were very few battles Taliban fighters and their Arab al Qaeda mercenaries melted away under fierce U.S. bombardment.

But there was one serious war and that was around Konduz in the north. Those fighters have now come back to a hero's welcome. Harris Whitbeck with their story in Kabul.


HARRIS WHITBECK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A triumphant army rolls into town, tanks their guns covered flanked busloads of weary soldiers, City dwellers come out to watch wary but curious. Once 1,000 men strong, the army of Taz Mohammed, one of the Northern Alliance commanders, helped vanquish the Taliban in the battle of Konduz.

"We are all extremely happy because of this big victory" says the commander. "The terrorist networks are being devastated and our country has freedom once again. We are proud of this victory."

That victory came at a price. Only 600 men returned home. Young combatants look tired, their eyes still reflecting the horror of the battlefield.

Twenty-year-old Ziol Haat (ph) fought with his unit for four years. In one of his last battles, he and nine others held a hilltop against Taliban fighters for days. Eight of his comrades were killed.

"They are martyrs" he says "and there are thousands more like them, but they died for the welfare of the people so their deaths were not in vain."

These young soldiers home again, now talk of peace. They've parked these tanks for now, but the soldiers say they are ready to take up arms at a moment's notice. Many say they'd be willing to go down to Tora Bora to fight al Qaeda. Others say that they will always be ready to defend their country from foreign invaders.

Their commanders says the multi-national security force slated to arrive in Afghanistan within days need to remember it will only be welcome for a short while.

"They can cooperate' he says "but they should not invade our country or interfere with us." That's one of the unknowns that is feeding an undercurrent of tension here.

With the shaky government alliance made up of former enemies soon to be in power, idle soldiers loyal to many different commanders, could quickly become a threat to the very peace they now enjoy.

Harris Whitbeck, CNN, Kabul, Afghanistan.


AMANPOUR: Now in that last month since the Taliban were routed, the smiles on people's faces, the expressions of joy tell the whole story. When we come back after a short break, musicians who were in jail under the Taliban, come out to play again.


AMANPOUR: Under the Taliban as we've been reporting, there was no television allowed, no music allowed to be played in public. People now are telling us that during that time, those who were brave enough and those who had them, would bring their satellite dishes out quietly for a few minutes at night, put on their CDs and listen to music quietly and so surreptitiously, afraid that if the Taliban caught them, they would be taken to jail or worse.

Now, we are hearing stories of men and women dancing again together at weddings, and of music being played publicly again. CNN's Jim Clancy has the story of a group of musicians who've just come out of jail.


JIM CLANCY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The bank is called Awa. It means air. Their artistic talents like those of so many others were suffocated by the Taliban's ban on music. And if the Taliban didn't like music, it absolutely hated those who had the ability to make it.

Monsoor (ph) tells the story of how last July, the group decided to risk playing a few songs at a friend's wedding. The Taliban overheard. In a matter of minutes, a punishment squad beat the wedding guests, smashed all their instruments, and hauled the musicians away.

The three musicians were taken here, to the prison in the center of Kabul. Fearing they might spread their nefarious rhythms, the Taliban segregated the music makers from the rest of the prison population, the murderers, thieves, and television set owners.

Zareef (ph) returned with us to the prison and recounted how all three men were handcuffed and placed in cramped cells meant for the most dangerous criminals. "We were kept over there," he told me, "in the back of the building."

The man in charge of the prison today said "putting ordinary harmless people in small cells was bad enough, but the handcuffing them hand and foot for most of the time amounted to human rights abuse."

With emotion swinging from old fears to fresh anger, Zareef showed us a building where the musicians were repeatedly hauled in for savage beatings. One session left him unconscious for hours. When the Taliban left, other prisoners destroyed the punishment rooms.

The abuse by the Taliban was physical and psychological. "The Taliban threatened to hang my drums around my neck and blacken our faces, and then put us in a pickup truck and parade us through the streets of Kabul as evil-doers" said Zareef. In all, he and the others spent some three months in this prison for their so-called crime.

They were released from prison after the September 11 attacks on the United States. The Taliban would soon be gone, but the nightmare of their experience is all the worse they say because like so much the Taliban did in Afghanistan, it made no sense.

"The punishment was ridiculous" said one. "All this for playing music at a wedding." Another added, "we were imprisoned because of music, which is against international law, Islamic law, and human rights."

The distinctive drums, hand-pumped harmonia and keyboard have been replaced now. Replacing five lost years of practice won't be as easy, and it isn't over. Even when they play today, somehow they say they still fear the Taliban could come again. It may not be the blues, but they've written down a few choice verses about their tormenters. The Taliban should beware. In Afghanistan, songs like these have a way of living on for generations.

Jim Clancy, CNN, Kabul, Afghanistan.


AMANPOUR: And that's all we have time for tonight. That's our report. Next, for our viewers in the United States, "THE POINT WITH GRETA VAN SUSTEREN" and worldwide, it's "WORLD SPORT".




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